MVP Zhu still ‘just an or­di­nary farm girl’

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By CHI­NADAILY

Nine years ago, Zhu Ting had a choice to make.

She could take the road out­side her vil­lage lead­ing to An­hui and Jiangsu prov­inces and set­tle for a nor­mal life, or she could set her sights on grow­ing up to be­come a key spiker on China’s women’s na­tional vol­ley­ball team — and MVP at the Rio Games.

On Satur­day, Zhu pow­ered China to a 3-1 vic­tory over Ser­bia in the gold medal fi­nal and fin­ished as the tour­na­ment’s top scorer with 179 points — in­clud­ing 33 in the semi­fi­nals against the Nether­lands.

The 21-year-old was born in Zhu­dalou, a vil­lage in He­nan province, the third child in a farm­ing fam­ily.

In an in­ter­view with He­nan Busi­ness Daily, her fa­ther, Zhu An­liang, said the land could not sup­port the fam­ily and he had to sup­ple­ment his in­come by re­pair­ing au­to­mo­biles.

By the time Zhu Ting turned 13 in 2007, she stood 5-foot-9. Her choices were lim­ited to find­ing a job in a fac­tory in Jiangsu or en­rolling in a lo­cal sports academy.

“Our fam­ily was in debt more than 100,000 yuan ($15,077) when our first child was born, but the sit­u­a­tion had im­proved by the time Zhu Ting came along and I had the money to sup­port her at Zhoukou City Sports School,” Zhu An­liang said in the in­ter­view.

He had no idea what kind of sports his daugh­ter might be drawn to ... he only knew she was un­usu­ally tall.

Dur­ing the first few­months of train­ing, Zhu Ting’s long­ing for home of­ten drove her to tears, and her mother, Yang Xue­lan, con­sid­ered ask­ing her to quit. But both par­ents re­al­ized the academy rep­re­sented a golden op­por­tu­nity for their daugh­ter to start a newlife.

“When I went to visit she al­ways told me, ‘Daddy, I can only hang on for an­other week,’” said Zhu An­liang.

“But week af­ter week, she wascho­sen from the city team to the pro­vin­cial team, so I had to take more part-time jobs in or­der to earn money to sup­port her.”

He said three years of Zhu Ting’s train­ing cost the fam­ily around 126,000 yuan.

“Train­ing was dif­fi­cult for ev­ery teenager in the sports school, but they had some fun on the week­ends by go­ing shop­ping or eat­ing in fancy restau­rants,” Zhu An­liang said.

“But my daugh­ter al­ways stayed in the school. She never wasted money.”

Now that Zhu Ting is an Olympic cham­pion, the whole vil­lage is very proud of her. And for ev­ery tele­vised game from Rio, Zhu An­liang pro­vided com­men­tary for the vil­lagers.

To “see” his daugh­ter more of­ten, he has her photo as the wall­pa­per on his mo­bile phone.

“When she was a lit­tle girl, our fam­ily was so poor that we could not af­ford a photo of her,” Zhu An­liang said.

“Now our lives are bet­ter. But when she comes back to the vil­lage, she is still just an or­di­nary farm girl from an or­di­nary farmer’s fam­ily.”

RI­CARDO MORAES / REUTERS

China’s Zhu Ting spikes dur­ing Satur­day’s vic­tory over Ser­bia.

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